Players to Watch This Spring
A few guys I'm keeping my eye on this spring training at major league camp will be Mike Jacobs, Aarom Baldiris, Matt Lindstrom, Blake McGinley, Ramon Castro, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jesus Flores.
I think a lot of eyes will be on Mike Jacobs this upcoming season. However, there would seem to be some questions as to where he is going to play as well. Defense has never been his strongpoint but his bat has been coming alive. He's a career .297 hitter and his power have been steadily increasing over his career. In his first season in 44 games, he hit 16 XBHs. In his second season, he hit 31 XBHs in 67 games. In his third season, he hit 19 XBHs in 55 games. Then he really broke out and set a career high in doubles and homers in 2002 with 26 doubles and 11 homeruns. In 2003, he had a career year at AA with a whopping 36 doubles and 17 homeruns in 119 games. For young players, scouts like to use doubles as a future projection of homers. If they are showing some pop and loads of doubles, the assumption is that some of the doubles start finding their way over the wall when the players gain strength. In Mike's situation, it started to happen at the right age. This season, he'll be 24 in AAA. His injury last season was a big setback. Instead of having one year of AAA under his belt at 23, he's got none. This year will either put him on the map as a legit prospect, or it will label his 2003 season as a fluky season of sorts. Should he progress and do well, he could be great trade bait as well.
Matt Lindstrom was last seen by NYFS getting some lessons on how to throw an off-speed pitch by Pedro Martinez. Pedro attributes his success to his off-speed pitch and said he would be in the bullpen was it not for him having it. Lindstrom who can consistently throw in the mid 90's and can touch 100 mph would have people scratching their heads after getting fooled with a off nasty speed pitch. This year, he is scheduled to start off at AA Binghamton most likely. He's turning 25 this season and the clock is ticking on him. A move to the bullpen and him shooting up the ranks of the system is also something to keep an eye on. His arm is useful as a starter, but the Mets have some pretty good depth in the rotation at the major and minor league level and it will be interesting to see how things play out and if he may be considered as the future closer.
Aarom Baldiris is finally starting to make the long anticipated switch to second base. Aarom just does not have the power to play third base and is more valuable as a middle infielder. He may be only valuable as a middle infielder actually. He is still young, and power can develop still, but the projections are bad for that to happen. He has hit only 13 homers in 1218 at-bats and his doubles paint a worse story. He's hit only 52 in 1218 at bats, or roughly 25 in a 150 games season. The power is not here, and it is not coming most likely. That's not to say he does not do things well at the plate. He is a guy that has gotten on base with .386 OBP% over his career with .310 career BA and is certainly a use top of the order guy that can be placed in the two hole, though he does not have much speed but is not a base blogger by any means.
Jesus Flores, who became the top catching prospect in the Mets system last season, is getting an invite to come play with the big boys. I'm guessing they want to see if this kid is the real deal. They want to find out what they have here and get a close look at him by the Major League staff and management. He's got the defense already as the threw out 44% of the attempt seals in 2004 and according to Baseball America, he rivals Joe Hieptas as the best defensive catcher in the system. Between Flores, Hieptas, and Hathaway, the Mets have some serious defense developing on the farm at the catching position, but whomever starts showing some life with the bat will certainly have the leg up on the competition. Flores is starting to to do that. At age 20, he broke out with .319/.368/.532 in the GCL with 12 doubles, 3 triples, 4 homers, and 25 RBIs in just 45 games. If his bat comes along more and he shows a bit more power as he matures, he could be regarded as one of the top catching prospects in all of the minors.
Blake McGinley has been a favorite of many people who follow the Mets minor league system. Admittedly, he is not one of mine, but he could factor heavily into the Mets 2005 season. After pitching through a largely unspectacular college career in which he posted a 10.77 H/9 and a WHIP of 1.48, he's progressed since landing the minor leagues. In college, he gave up 11 long balls in 107 innings compared to 15 long balls in 291 minor league innings. His K/9 is a solid 10.23 and he owns a sparkling 4.61 K/BB ratio in the minors with 1.04 WHIP. He embodies what you want out of a reliever so far in that he does not walk many, strikes out batters, and does not give up a lot of hits. It certainly does not hurt that he's a lefty either. He's posted a sub 2.00 ERA at three minor league stops and had his worst overall season ERA-wise in 2004, but his peripherals remained solid. Joe Hieptas has said this about McGinley back in December:
NYF: Which of your fellow Mets' farmhands would you say has the highest upside, among the guys you've played with?
Hietpas: The most dominating guys I've played with are Blake McGinley and Yusmeiro Petit. They just knock your socks off! It's awesome to watch them both pitch. They simply dominate while not even throwing in the 90's. They both change speeds and locate their pitches really well. It is a lot of fun to catch them, I can tell you that.
He's not a flamethrower, but not every reliever needs to be. I cannot see him on the opening ML roster, but he will be up at some point in 2005.
Ramon Castro is a mystery to everyone.
It's not hard to see why the Marlins completely gave up on him. Every time someone got excited about a young offensive catcher, he completely disappointed everyone. The success he had at 23 and 24 in the minors probably left management very, very happy about his performance. Then every year, he would fail to do anything in the major leagues. In parts of six major league season's he's compiled .212/.296/.365 with18 homers, 17 doubles, and 53 RBIs in 207 games. It's easy for Met fans to pray and hope that they have maybe pulled off steal with this guy, but it doesn't look good. He is just 29 and that is something to put a positive spin on and I am one of those people holding out hope they he may just put it together this season.
Yusmeiro Petit is the guy that I hope that they do not treat with kid gloves. Last year they gave Matt Peterson and Scott Kazmir about 1 or 2 innings each. No reason to baby him as many at bats in spring are not against the true stars of the teams anyway. Let the kid see if he can handle the big time and get him 15 innings of spring. If he's as advanced as it seems, let him prove it. The kid knows how to pitch and I think they should let him show everyone what he has.
Here's a notable cartoon from the A's. Eric Chavez carrying the entire offense with the dude on the back slacking off. Classic.
I've never seen a ballplayer take so many effeminate pictures.
"My perspective is he's 25 and hasn't pitched in a few years," Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie said. "He should go play baseball."
Brilliance...sheer brilliance. I have not played baseball in a few years either, sign me.
"There was never any bad blood," he said. "It was stuff that happened on the field. Some comments came out [at the time] and I understand that. What I did back then was totally professional. What he did was totally professional. We kept it that way. Right now, he's my teammate and I'll blow your head off for him."
The new television network with which the club has reached an agreement will add a great deal of revenue to the team's coffers. There is money in the budget to add another player or two this season if the situation warrants. And talk of a new stadium has begun to gain some momentum again, though that's still in the planning stages.
A bad tidbit:
"I don't want to be a silent owner, but I would like Omar and his staff to handle it," Wilpon said.
Silence is gold Fred, remember that.
"I told them to work hard and get ready for a championship season."
--Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella, on his opening message to players (St. Petersburg Times)
He's right, it will be a championship season....just not for the D-Rays.
Matt Mantei endears himself to his new fan base and basically everyone not a Yankee, or Yankee fan:
"I don't like the Yankees. I don't think anybody does, except the Yankees."
--new Boston reliever Matt Mantei, on the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry (New York Post)
He did everything his new teammates did in the first full workout—agility drills, fielding drills and batting practice, including some live swings off the Tigers' pitchers. His baseball pants were worn in his usual style, bunched up at the ankles and still somehow touching his shoe tops, but otherwise he was almost indistinguishable from the other Tigers.
"He looks fine moving around," manager Alan Trammell said. "Just to be sitting here talking about him, to have him full go, is such a good thing. This wasn't what I was expecting a week or 10 days ago."